Strong Representation for a Pioneer in Social Justice Law
For nearly 150 years, The Legal Aid Society has ensured equal justice for all New Yorkers. Operating in every borough, it is perhaps America’s largest and most influential public interest law firm. In need of a focused message, stronger branding, and better website, The Legal Aid Society asked Constructive to help rethink their brand to embody their mission and values. In the three years since, we’ve developed a new brand strategy and redesigned The Legal Aid Society’s visual identity, communications, and website—uniting the organization to better deliver justice in every borough.
Building a deeper, shared understanding of the brand.
We started by spending the first few months gaining valuable perspectives from both inside and outside the organization. For internal research, we conducted a communications audit to establish a baseline; then lead inclusive strategy workshops with diverse representatives of The Legal Aid Society’s many offices and practice areas. Interviews and a survey of over 2,000 staff members added to our depth and breadth of understanding. For external research, we gained insight into external perceptions and audience relationships by conducting interviews with clients, partners, government officials, and others. We then placed The Legal Aid Society’s brand in context of other public interest law nonprofits by analyzing their branding—gaining insight needed to strengthen positioning and differentiation.
We translated research into a brand strategy and messaging platform that tells The Legal Aid Society’s story and shares its impact, while speaking to the serious systemic and everyday issues their clients face.
"We are the only nonprofit law firm operating in every borough."Key Differentiators— Representing All of New York
"The Legal Aid Society is the largest social justice law firm in the nation."Key Differentiators— Organizational Strength
"We work on systemic change to ensure justice for those who are discriminated against."Key Differentiators— A Leader of System Reform
"Our people know how to successfully navigate the complexities of the legal system."Key Differentiators— Unrivaled Experience & Expertise
"We fight every day for increased fairness and humanity in the criminal justice system."Key Differentiators— Criminal Defense
"We help improve the lives of more than 126,000 New Yorkers living at or below the poverty line every year."Key Differentiators— Civil
"For over 50 years, we have represented 90 percent of the children who appear before Family Court."Key Differentiators— Juvenile Rights
"Over 3,000 volunteers from leading law firms and law schools work with us on thousands of legal matters every year."Key Differentiators— Pro Bono Practice
Visual Identity Design
We need a design system that spans practice areas and boroughs.
For visual identity design, we focused our strategy on The Legal Aid Society’s top strategic priorities. First, present a strong, straightforward brand. Second, emphasize their all-borough community presence. Third, highlight individual practice areas while expressing unity. And fourth, reflect New York City’s diversity. The Legal Aid Society’s master logo is black-and-white, just like the law should be. It boldly makes the case for the brand, avoiding unnecessary decoration and getting right to the point. Borough and practice-area sub-brands establish a clear brand architecture. The type is strong and easy to read. And the brand’s color system references NYC’s iconic subway lines—an equitable, connecting force for every New Yorker.
Practice area Logos
Encapsulated by their tagline “Justice in Every Borough”, The Legal Aid Society’s new branding spans boroughs and practice areas with a visual identity that literally and figuratively represents all of New York City.
How do we balance telling our brand story while directly servicing clients and communities?
Simultaneous to brand development, our digital team designed a strategy to transform how the Legal Aid Society engages audiences online. Two of our top priorities were to tell a compelling brand narrative and to deliver value through online service design. We started with internal research, auditing The Legal Aid Society’s website and working with staff to understand the role it played—and could play—in supporting operations. We then focused externally, conducting field visits to offices and courthouses to understand the client and community experience. User personas framed UX workshops to define audience-centric content and functionality, resulting in a blueprint that makes a strong case for The Legal Aid Society while providing invaluable information, resources, and services to help all New Yorkers.
Visits to criminal and juvenile courthouses provided unique insight into the systemic barriers to justice in the legal system—motivating us to help The Legal Aid Society better serve people to help overcome those challenges.
Website Design & Development
Designing a bold online brand experience that stands strong for equal justice.
In visual design, we extended both The Legal Aid Society’s new branding and ourselves to create an online experience that’s equal to the organization’s mission and impact. The new LegalAidNYC.org boldly represents their brand with bold type, vibrant colors, and a strong gridded aesthetic—just like The Legal Aid Society’s defense and the NYC roots they represent. Strong design grids and large headlines make a clear statement. Type hierarchies create easily scannable pages and make volumes of information accessible—highlighted by the service design-driven “Get Help” section. And the brand’s subway-inspired color system combines with inviting imagery to represent the diverse people of The Legal Aid Society and New York City—a key strategic priority for a brand that stands as a beacon to anyone overwhelmed by an oppressive, impersonal system of justice.
Inclusive digital service design that makes legal support available all New Yorkers.
A top priority for The Legal Aid Society’s new website was to make it more useful and valuable to the clients and communities the organization serves. Not only would doing so empower people caught up in the justice system, but it would also reduce the burden and overhead of inbound calls from clients in need of help. We created an encyclopedic “Get Help” section that supports clients and communities by providing valuable information and resources for all of the issue areas The Legal Aid Society helps with. And to demystify the confusing legal landscape, the “Terms You Might Hear Glossary” helps explain jargon that clients might hear when dealing with complex legal issues.
The Legal Aid Society’s website makes it easy for people to understand their rights, navigate the justice system, get the legal support they need, and get in touch with the right people to help with their situation.
A digital storytelling platform that celebrates staff and shares their stories.
A key pillar of our brand strategy was to unite The Legal Aid Society’s staff with a shared vision and elevate the voices of their passionate and dedicated 2,000 people. So, we created a digital storytelling strategy called “A Day in the Life” that gives staff a platform to share what “Justice in Every Borough” means to them and generates pride in the mission. In addition, The Legal Aid Society’s commitment to diversity and inclusion are given a spotlight, elevating one of their core values and attracting top talent to join the organization. And to make the brand more accessible, a full staff directory makes it easy for audiences to get in touch with any of The Legal Aid Society’s experts.
Developing a digital platform for online fundraising, advocacy, and action.
A key part of the Legal Aid Society’s work involves community action and organizing—taking on both the big issues and individual injustices that hang over so many of New York’s oppressed communities. Central to these efforts are campaigns and fundraising—operations The Legal Aid Society powers online using Blackbaud Luminate. We designed a flexible system of attention-grabbing calls-to-action throughout the website that encourage audiences to support The Legal Aid Society’s campaigns and their work—whether that’s by lending their voice, lending a hand, or making a donation.
An effective plan to ensure a smooth and successful brand launch.
The Legal Aid Society is the only legal justice organization that serves all five boroughs of New York City. That means in each borough, they’ve got multiple offices for each practice area—amounting to 2,000+ staff members. In addition, The Legal Aid Society is trusted by countless government officials, media outlets, and other law partners to provide expertise. To ensure that all of these key stakeholders got word about the new brand and website, we created a detailed brand rollout plan that documented announcement needs and methods for each key audience group. We developed Brand FAQs so leadership in each borough felt empowered to answer any staff questions that came up about the new brand. We also updated many of their key internal documents with the new brand and developed new pieces of collateral to support the external brand launch. Everything from T-shirts, to pens, to Know Your Rights brochures! In addition, the website first went live to members of The Legal Aid Society’s staff (we called it a “soft launch”) so they had the opportunity to provide feedback before it launched with the rest of the world.
Our Client's Experience
“The Legal Aid Society came to Constructive with the ambitious goal of strengthening our large organization by developing a brand that tells our story, engages multiple audiences, and unites our practice areas, offices, and our people. Their team embraced our complexity and helped make sense of it to craft branding that truly represents who we are—highlighted by our new website, an invaluable resource to the clients and communities we serve that demonstrates our expertise and helps drive our advocacy and fundraising.”